Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning

By Michael Byram | Go to book overview

P

Palmer, Harold Edward

b. 1877, London; d. 1949, Felbridge, UK

Language teaching theorist, phonetician, grammarian, lexicologist, materials writer

Harold E. Palmer worked tirelessly between the two World Wars to establish a principled basis for English language teaching (ELT). Given the subsequent influence of his ideas, he deserves greater recognition as the 'founding father' of (British) ELT. However, it is in Japan (where he spent the years 1922-36) that he is best remembered today.

Palmer first taught in Belgium, in a language school run along Berlitz lines. He then began to develop his own more systematic, less dogmatically monolingual version of DIRECT METHOD teaching, which he later termed the 'Oral Method' (Palmer, 1921b; see also Palmer and Palmer, 1925). He joined the INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ASSOCIATION in 1907, and took on board the ideas of REFORM MOVEMENT theorists such as Henry SWEET and Otto JESPERSEN. In his subsequent work, Palmer brought together the direct method and Reform Movement traditions: his overall significance lies in the way he attempted systematically and consistently to relate practice to theory, thus foreshadowing APPLIED LINGUISTICS as constituted in the post-World War Two era (see in particular Palmer, 1917, 1921a, 1924a).

Palmer's best-known works on language teaching and learning theory were written during an extremely productive spell in Daniel Jones's Department of Phonetics at University College London (1915-21). There, Palmer also developed wider interests in English intonation and grammar, as reflected in a classic PEDAGOGICAL GRAMMAR (Palmer, 1924b) which he completed following his move to JAPAN in 1922.

Outside Japan, few teachers are aware of Palmer's achievements as 'linguistic adviser' to the Department of Education and founder of the Institute for Research in English Teaching (IRET), the first such centre in the world. However, Palmer's legacy continues to be valued by Japanese members of the Institute (now known as IRLT).

Palmer's output was considerable, and he devoted great energy to the provision of guides for teachers and innovative textbook materials (see IRLT, 1995; Smith, 1999). In the 1930s, he increasingly focused on issues of VOCABULARY control and text simplification, and his collaborative lexicological work with Michael West is relatively well-known internationally. After returning to England in 1936, he seems to have suffered from the absence of an organisation comparable to IRET, and it was largely due to the mediation of A.S.HORNBY (his successor as leader of research in Tokyo) that Palmer's ideas became influential as ELT established a base in post-war Britain.


References

i
IRLT (eds) (1995) The selected writings of Harold E. Palmer (ten vols), Tokyo: Hon-no-Tomosha.

p
Palmer, H.E. (1917) The scientific study and teaching of languages, London: Harrap.

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Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vi
  • Editorial Team vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Thematic List of Entries xviii
  • A 1
  • B 73
  • C 90
  • D 169
  • E 188
  • F 217
  • G 228
  • H 254
  • Bibliography 259
  • I 288
  • J 316
  • L 325
  • M 394
  • N 436
  • O 452
  • P 458
  • Q 499
  • R 504
  • S 522
  • Bibliography 577
  • T 595
  • Bibliography 643
  • U 644
  • V 658
  • W 673
  • Index 679
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